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Reciprocity Between Reading and Writing: Strategic Processing as Common Ground


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Connecting reading and writing has important implications for all readers, but particularly for those who struggle in learning to read and write. Reading and writing is discussed from the perspective of strategic processing and reciprocity and explicit language for teachers to help children build common ground between reading and writing is described.
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The Reading Teacher, 64(7), pp. 546–549 © 2011 International Reading Association
DOI:10.1598/RT.64.7.11 ISSN:0034-0561 print / 1936-2714 online
hen we write, we read; when we read,
we compose meaning. A wide body of
research documents the reading–writing
connection (see, e.g., Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;
Harste & Short, 1988; Pearson, 1990; Shanahan, 1980;
Tierney & Pearson, 1983). Making this connection
has important implications for all readers, and par-
ticularly for those who experience difficulty in learn-
ing to read and write.
Based on our work with children who struggle,
we focus on reciprocal cognitive operations or strate-
gies that draw on sources of knowledge used in both
reading and writing (Clay, 1991; Rumelhart, 1994).
These in-the-head decision-making or processing
systems are what children use to make sense of how
print works.
Our aim in this column is to explain teaching for
reciprocity from a strategic processing perspective.
We also provide some explicit language for teachers
to use in helping children build common ground be-
tween reading and writing.
Writing for Readers
Who Struggle
In an effort to make learning easier, educators often
teach reading and writing as separate, sequential
processes, with reading coming first. This denies
children the opportunity to construct shared, pow-
erful, strategic operations (Askew & Frasier, 1999;
Boocock, McNaughton, & Parr, 1998; Chomsky, 1971).
When children are clearly getting left behind by
their faster-learning classmates, it is very important to
work with reading and writing together” (Clay, 2001,
p.11). Struggling readers who do not have opportuni-
ties to write may struggle even more with literacy.
Children need to write for authentic purposes. In
doing so, they move from ideas, to composing a mes-
sage, to searching for ways to record their messages
while monitoring their message production (Clay,
2001). Children need to become both author and
audience by giving and receiving genuine responses
that value their voices and choices. Through these
interactions, they express themselves and construct
identities (Dyson, 1997).
Strategic Processing
What children do and say while reading and writ-
ing can provide evidence of their mental activity or
higher order cognitive processing (Vygotsky, 1978).
Close observations of young children learning to
read reveal patterns of errors that provide a window
into their strategic processing (Clay, 1991; Goodman
& Goodman, 1994). Searching, monitoring, and self-
correcting are strategic operations with particular
significance for successful reading and writing (Clay,
2005). Searching is the mental action of seeking out
information in print. Monitoring is checking on one-
self throughout the process of reading and writing.
Self-correcting means independently fixing one’s
The cognitive processes used in reading are iden-
tical to those involved in writing (DeFord, 1994). As
children read, they search, monitor, and self-correct
Reciprocity Between Reading
and Writing: Strategic Processing
as Common Ground
Nancy L. Anderson, Connie Briggs
Reciprocity Between Readingand Writing: Strategic Processingas Common Ground
for and with meaning (semantics), structure (syntax),
and graphophonic information (soundletter–word
patterns). As they write, children create social and
imaginary worlds (Dyson, 1997), drawing on mean-
ings in their lives (semantics). They use their oral lan-
guage and knowledge of how writing in books and
other texts sounds (syntax) to group words together
and represent their meanings. They search for ways
to express themselves using their knowledge of con-
ventions of print and graphophonic information.
By observing the strategic activity of struggling
learners while they read and write continuous text,
common ground between reading and writing be-
comes evident. Table 1 presents examples of recipro-
cal processing behaviors that teachers may observe.
Teaching for Reciprocity
Explicit teaching to help students understand the re-
ciprocal nature of reading and writing is a powerful
tool for accelerating learning. To illustrate clear evi-
dence of strategic, reciprocal processing, we share
examples from John Paul (pseudonym), a first-grade
student Nancy (first author) worked with in writing
and reading.
Searching for Meaning
Writing. John Paul described how happy he was
that it was his friend’s birthday. Nancy said, Think
about everything you said. You’re the author; what
could you write about that? John Paul orally com-
posed “I like birthdays, and today is Brents birthday.
In composing, John Paul searched for meaning and
structure to compose a message.
Reading. When he came to the sentence The
caterpillar was safe” in Beverley Randell’s (1995)
Hedgehog Is Hungry, John Paul stopped at the word
safe. His introduction to the book had provided him
with an overview of the story, so he knew that the
caterpillar was not going to be eaten. Nancy decided
to help John Paul draw on his ability to search for
meaning and structure. She asked, “Think about the
story. What would make sense?” John Paul reread to
search for meaning and then said, “Safe.
In these examples, John Paul was able to search
for meaning by drawing on his prior knowledge of the
world and on information from and about the story.
His teacher explicitly drew on meaning and structure
as sources of information. Teachers often underesti-
mate the power of language structure and default to
graphophonic information. Struggling readers need
Table 1
Common Ground Between Reading and Writing
Strategic processing Writer Reader
Searching for meaning Generates ideas with an audience in mind Uses print to construct meaning
Monitoring for meaning Checks that the message makes sense Checks that the message makes sense
Searching for structure Anticipates the order of words based on
how book language and oral language
Groups words together in phrases to
represent the intended message
Monitoring for structure Checks the order of words supporting
the intended message
Rereads (out loud or holding the
message in the mind) to check that the
word order communicates the intended
Searching for
graphophonic information
Uses knowledge of how letters, words,
and print work to record the message
Seeks out graphophonic input from print
in relation to meaning and structure
Monitoring for
graphophonic information
Checks and detects any discrepancies
between anticipated message and
graphophonic input
Checks and detects that the print
represents the message
Self-correcting Detects and corrects Detects and corrects
The Reading Teacher Vol. 64, No. 7 April 2011
the syllables as he searched for and located grapho-
phonic information on the page. Nancy said, “Good
work. You made that look right.
These examples show how John Paul was able to
search in writing and reading for graphophonic in-
formation by linking phonological and orthographic
information and then self-correcting.
Supporting Learning
With Powerful Tools
Teachers need to use explicit language that helps
children connect reading and writing. This language
serves as a scaffold, supporting interactions with
children and helping teachers to learn from observa-
tions of students. Table 2 presents parallel teaching
moves for reading and writing and suggests specific
language to use during small-group or individual
instruction. The table serves as a starting point for
reciprocity with children; it is not meant as a compre-
hensive list. As teachers interact with children and re-
spond to them as readers and writers, they will create
additional opportunities to support reciprocity.
to recognize that their prior experiences and lan-
guage are important sources of information they can
use to search, monitor, and subsequently self-correct.
Searching for Graphophonic
Writing. Perhaps the most obvious process shared
by reading and writing is searching for graphophon-
ic information. When John Paul wanted to write the
word birthday, he sounded /b/-/b/-/b/ before appeal-
ing to Nancy. Nancy said, Say it slowly and think
about what you would expect to see. John Paul
searched for graphophonic information, slowly ar-
ticulated the first part of the word, and wrote “brth.
He then monitored his attempt, stopped, looked at
Nancy, and said, That doesn’t look right. Then he
self-corrected by inserting an i.
Reading. Returning to Hedgehog Is Hungry, John
Paul came to the word hungry and stopped. To make
reciprocity explicit, Nancy said, Think about how
you say words slowly in writing. That will help you
in reading.” John Paul then said “hun-gry,separating
Table 2
Teaching for Reciprocal Processing in Reading and Writing
Strategic process Teaching reading Teaching writing
Searching for meaning (Based on genre, title, cover illustration,
etc.), what is this story about? Think
about the story. What would make
Encourage genuine conversations. What
do you want to say? What will the reader
need to know?
Monitoring for meaning Did that make sense? Reread and check. Is that what you
wanted to say?
Searching for structure Reread and try something that would
sound right.
You said…. What can you write about
Monitoring for structure You said…. Can we say it that way? Reread and check. Is that the way you
want it to sound?
Searching for
graphophonic information
What do you know about that word?
Think about writing. What would the
letters (or word) say if you were writing?
Say the word slowly and think about
what would look or sound right.
Monitoring for
graphophonic information
Try that again and make sure it looks
Run your finger underneath the word.
Say it slowly. Does it look right?
Self-correction You thought about the story and went
back to make it look right. I like the way
you are thinking.
You went back and decided the word
wasn’t quite right, and then fixed it. You
were really thinking about your message.
Reciprocity Between Readingand Writing: Strategic Processingas Common Ground
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3950. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3501_5
Goodman, Y.M., & Goodman, K.S. (1994). To err is human:
Learning about language processes by analyzing miscues.
In R.B. Ruddell, M.R. Ruddell, & H. Singer (Eds.), Theoretical
models and processes of reading (4th ed., pp. 104–123).
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Pearson, P.D. (1990). Foreword. In T. Shanahan (Ed.), Reading
and writing together: New perspectives for the classroom
(pp.v–vi). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
Rumelhart, D.E. (1994). Toward an interactive model of reading.
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Tierney, R.J., & Pearson, P.D. (1983). Toward a composing model
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Literature Cited
Randell, B. (1995). Hedgehog is hungry. Crystal Lake, IL: Rigby.
Anderson teaches at Texas Woman’s University and
tutors children in the Denton Independent School
District in Denton, Texas, USA; e-mail nanderson@ Briggs teaches at Texas Woman’s
University, Denton, USA; e-mail
Teaching reading and writing as reciprocal pro-
cesses is a powerful tool for supporting struggling
learners. Furthermore, making explicit connections
to searching, monitoring, and self-correcting expo-
nentially increases children’s opportunities to de-
velop parallel processes for reading and writing. As
teachers explore this reciprocal relationship in the
classroom, they will be surprised at how children
learn more quickly as they begin to make connec-
tions (Clay, 2001; DeFord, Lyons, & Pinnell, 1991).
When you teach reading and writing together, it is a
two-for-one deal—a deal we simply cannot pass up.
Askew, B.J., & Frasier, D. (1999). Early writing: An exploration of
literacy opportunities. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 4(1),
Boocock, C., McNaughton, S., & Parr, J.M. (1998). The early de-
velopment of a self-extending system in writing. Literacy
Teaching and Learning, 3(2), 41–58.
Chomsky, C. (1971). Write first: Read later. Childhood Education,
47(6), 296–299.
Clay, M.M. (1991). Reading errors and self correction behavior.
The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 39(1), 4756,
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Clay, M.M. (2005). Literacy lessons designed for individuals. Part
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DeFord, D.E. (1994). Early writing: Teachers and children in
Reading Recover y. Literacy, Teaching and Learning, 1(1),
DeFord, D.E., Lyons, C.A., & Pinnell, G.S. (1991). Bridges to lit-
eracy: Learning from Reading Recovery. Portsmouth, NH:
The department editors welcome reader comments. Connie Briggs teaches at Texas Woman’s
University, Denton, USA; e-mail Catherine Compton-Lilly teaches at the
University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA; e-mail
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 21-24) Supported in part by the National Institute of Education under contract no. NIE 400-81-0030
A review of the literature concerning the relationship of learning to read and learning to write. Special emphasis is given to those aspects of writing instruction or activity which may have a positive impact upon learning to read. A critical examination of several studies reveals that reading and writing are, indeed, related; and, that, at least under some conditions, writing does seem to influence reading development. Literature pertaining to the word recognition, comprehension, and affective dimensions of this relationship is examined. Although the available research does not indicate precisely how writing influences reading ‐ or the best ways to take advantage of the overlap for instructional design, six tentative instructional recommendations are made. Included are suggestions as to when writing instruction should be initiated, how spelling and grammar should be dealt with, and the types of assignments and activities which are most apt to stimulate reading growth.
Suggests that children should learn to read by creating their own spellings for familiar words. (NH)
Intended for practitioners, this book presents a curricular framework for classroom reading and writing experiences that help students understand how reading and writing relate to reasoning and learning. The two sections of the book are organized around three major components of curriculum and how each component was realized in three Indiana classroom settings--inner city, suburban, and small town/city. The first section summarizes current knowledge about reading, writing, and reasoning as it relates to curriculum learning. Although the major curriculum components overlap, they involve: (1) how to begin an authoring cycle; (2) creating a conducive context for exploring literacy in the classroom; and (3) using this frame for communicating and extending curriculum. Full lesson plans for the 32 strategies discussed are included in Section Two. Three feature articles in the book offer readers the opportunity to hear directly from the teachers involved in classrooms using the authoring cycle as a curricular frame. The intent of these feature articles is to present key insights as well as various portrayals of how to begin. (MG)
If cues in redundant sources are cross-related it is often possible to detect that an error has been made. Evidence of self-correction behaviour in 5-year-old beginning readers is presented and the interpretation is made that an efficient information-processing strategy is developed by children who make good progress in learning to read. That such a strategy could be developed by young children at a stage of intuitive rather than logical thinking is best explained in terms of Neisser's concept of multiple thought processes which he considers appropriate for dealing with novel, irregular stimuli.
Reading and writing rela-tions and their development To err is human: Learning about language processes by analyzing miscues
  • J Fitzgerald
  • T Shanahan
Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing rela-tions and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 39–50. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3501_5 Goodman, Y.M., & Goodman, K.S. (1994). To err is human: Learning about language processes by analyzing miscues. In R.B. Ruddell, M.R. Ruddell, & H. Singer (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (4th ed., pp. 104–123).
Foreword Reading and writing together: New perspectives for the classroom (pp. v–vi)
  • P D Pearson
Pearson, P.D. (1990). Foreword. In T. Shanahan (Ed.), Reading and writing together: New perspectives for the classroom (pp. v–vi). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.